Vol 28 No 3 (2019): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Introduction to the issue

Thera Marie Crane
University of Helsinki
Published December 31, 2019


The UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 (IYIL) came to an end shortly before the publication of this issue of NJAS. According to UNESCO’s Strategic Outcome Document for IYIL, over eight hundred IYIL events were held around the world in 2019. In Africa, these events ranged from a major regional gathering of the African Union Commission and African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis-Ababa, to plans for the development of a reality TV game show in Nigeria entitled “Can You Really Speak Your Language?”

In this volume, Onyumbe & Koni Muluwa take a historical approach to the phonology of Cíbìnjì cyà Ngúsú, a Bantu language of DRC, highlighting some of the less common Bantu sound changes observed in this language. Sonkoue Kamdem presents new data on the previously undescribed tense-aspect system of Mengaka, a Grassfields language spoken in Cameroon, providing a beautiful illustration of the complexity inherent in even a “basic” description of the tense-aspect system of many African languages: Although Sonkoue Kamdem restricts her description to affirmative main clause contexts, and aims to describe chiefly the primary (temporal semantic) functions of the markers, the distinctions shown are numerous, with hints of even greater complexity if pragmatic functions are considered. Fongang presents new data and a morphosyntactic analysis of the na focus particle in Cameroon Pidgin English (also known as Kamtok and Cameroon Creole English), drawing connections to similar phenomena in other pidgin and creole languages. Like Cameroon Pidgin English, African creoles and many contact varieties are well-developed, full-fledged languages with intricate grammatical systems, and they often have huge numbers of first- and second-language speakers (see e.g. Yapko 2016; Sande 2015). Therefore, they merit the same quality and scope of linguistic research as other indigenous languages, even if their so-called “lexifying” languages, from which much of the vocabulary is derived, did not originate on the African continent. Finally, Dione offers Lexical-Functional Grammar analyses of prominent linguistic features in Wolof, a Niger-Congo language that is spoken mostly in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania.